06 Aug Backlash Against For Profit Schools
For profit schools are taking a public relations beating these days. With an education bubble that is inflating beyond control, for profit schools have become public enemy number one. Widespread shaky practices and reckless profiteering have put these institutions in the crosshairs. But is it warranted? Are these schools really the root of all of education’s evil and sins? Or are they merely just benefiting from an overall system that is in need of reform?
First, it must be acknowledged that much of the criticism against for-profit schools is warranted. There are numerous incidents of representatives from these institutions using their positions to push iffy students into enrolling and taking out student loans using dubious information and false promises. These representatives are typically paid on commission based upon enrollments. As such, their goal is often to get students to enroll and stay in school just long enough for the financial aid agreement to go into place and the checks to clear. At that point, they receive their commissions and the students begin to rack up (what eventually will become) a rather large debt. This does not even take into account that many of the students who graduate from these institutions will do so with near worthless degrees that do not make them any more hirable than they were beforehand.
Incidents like this are clearly examples of unethical behavior. However, are they significantly different than that of non-profit colleges? Well, yes and no. It should be noted that most state and even non-profit private colleges do not have recruiters who are paid on commission based upon financial aid sign-ups – so that does differ from for-profit colleges. However, even non-profit schools are in a situation where they benefit from financial aid agreements to lesser qualified students.
Student loans are the source of the education bubble in this country. As unemployment rates for new graduates stay high, collegiate tuition prices continue to rise with administrations finding demand (with no job market) increasing in kind. As such, outstanding student loans are skyrocketing out of control with defaults occurring at just about the same rate. As much as we would like to make for-profit institutions the scapegoat for this outstanding debt, the fact of the matter is that a majority of it has occurred at traditional colleges. In addition, for profit schools, while offering degrees that may sometimes be dubious in nature, often offer tuition that is less than traditional schools (but still a large total in its own right).
The catch-22 in this situation is that there is no way that this nation can meet its education goals without for-profit schools. There is far more demand for education than available enrollment slots at non-profit schools across this country. We live in a nation where education offers the path to the American dream. The college education currently holds the same status as a high school degree did a half century ago. It is near (albeit not) impossible to reach high levels of management without one. Unless we revise what the American dream is and how it can be obtained, for profit schools will be a necessary evil to fill in the gaps for students who may not be able to attend non-profit schools for a variety of reasons.